Thursday, February 6, 2014

Unfit to Govern

Government is hard, particularly at the highest levels. The US Supreme Court, for example, generally takes a case only when lower courts have ruled differently on an issue. A president or prime minister is confronted constantly with problems with no good answers, because if there were good answers, the decision would've already been made by others.

One such problem is Palestine. Israel cannot remain Jewish and democratic if it insists on occupying a large number of Palestinians who are reproducing more quickly than the Jews are. This is a matter of simple and obvious math. At some point the majority must be either prevented from voting (therefore, not a democracy) or overwhelm the Jews (therefore, not Jewish) by sheer number. You can't keep them in Israel.

Another such problem is illegal immigration in America. Estimates apparently vary from some 7 to 20 million people, but suffice to say we're talking about millions of people. In contrast, even counting the disastrous War on Drugs, the entire US prison population is about 2.2 million.

America cannot remain the country that many (most?) citizens want it to be if it tries to round up and deport millions of people. Even if they all somehow reported to their nearest police station when called, there aren't enough police or jails or judges or maybe even busses to process their cases for many years, and it'll probably cause massive economic disruption to the US, never mind to Mexico where a large number of them will presumably return. You can't just throw them all out of America.

The first problem has an obvious solution: Palestinians need to be "ejected" from the Jewish Israeli state. But doing it the dumb way would surely create a power vacuum that would attract terrorists and other bad actors, and Israel's security would be compromised. This means that Palestine needs to be an effective (and of course cordial, if not friendly) state. It needs to be able to secure its borders. Yet, the Israelis don't seem to want to move on this, even at increasing cost to their international reputation.

The second problem also has an obvious solution: the illegal immigrants need to be brought into the fold. The proponents like to talk about upstanding college graduates who are "undocumented" because they were born a month before their parents snuck into the country, and the opponents like to talk about people who disrespected our laws and want amnesty. Neither really matters in the long run, because in another generation their children will all be US citizens by birth. Making life difficult for their parents only means this emergent class of citizens will engorge the underclass.

The problem is real, the solution is fairly obvious, but (perhaps by coincidence) the right wings in both countries are unwilling to do anything about it. I, too, lament that Fairness and other values aren't more widely practiced in this world, but that cannot stop a government from moving to resolve real problems. Politicians who avoid this duty are unfit to govern.

Barack Obama is a troubling President. His stance on things like NSA eavesdropping will probably taint his legacy permanently, and should bother any supporter. However, he went for the best health care reform he could've gotten from Congress, even though a single-payer system is a rather obvious model adopted successfully by many other countries. He was willing to settle for less than everything when he got the main things that he wanted, the terrible rollout notwithstanding. On immigration, he's turning to executive orders to accomplish what he can. Which is far more than you can say for the Republican-controlled House, whose legislative output seems to consist solely of pointless attempts to repeal Obamacare.

Now, there are many, many details to complicated problems like these two examples above, and trying to address those would take many more words and wisdom that I don't have, but my main point is this: the difference is that Obamacare is now law and they're trying to work through the problems.

As the old adage says, don't let perfect become an enemy of good. I fear that while conservatives congratulate themselves on their moral superiority, the country merely spins on its toes as others catch up or even move ahead.